Guest poem submitted by Pavithra Krishnan:
(Poem #764) A Subaltern's Love Song
Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun, What strenuous singles we played after tea, We in the tournament - you against me! Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy, The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy, With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won, I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn. Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won, The warm-handled racket is back in its press, But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less. Her father's euonymus shines as we walk, And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk, And cool the verandah that welcomes us in To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin. The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath, The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path, As I struggle with double-end evening tie, For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I. On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts, And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports, And westering, questioning settles the sun, On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn. The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall, The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall, My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair And there on the landing's the light on your hair. By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways, She drove to the club in the late summer haze, Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells. Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, I can hear from the car park the dance has begun, Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band! Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand! Around us are Rovers and Austins afar, Above us the intimate roof of the car, And here on my right is the girl of my choice, With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice. And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said, And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead. We sat in the car park till twenty to one And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
I like this one as much for the title as for anything that follows. A poem that admits to being a Love Song right off the bat, needs to balance the sentimentality of the confession with, well... something. Where Eliot used J. Alfred Prufrock, Betjeman uses A Subaltern... and follows up with the introduction of the entirely bewitching Miss J. Hunter Dunn. And if the title fails to inspire interest, well then I dare any reader to rein in at the end of the first verse. Betjeman at his merriest is impossibly irresistible. His rhythms have been called near-Tennysonian, a deliciously accurate observation: like the earlier Laureate, Betjeman too, slips with breathtaking ease into beautiful babblings. And like the girl that is its fascination, the poem too is light and lovely, swift and sure of foot (that could well be feet :)). Miss Dunn in all her athletic splendour, outdoorsy goodlooks and snub-nosed wholesomeness, is representative of the species of girlhood that Betjeman's verse was particularly susceptible to (in his own words)-- 'The tennis-playing biking girl/ The wholly-to-my-liking girl"... Here's a poet who has a way with hyphens and the words that go with them, a poet who can charm the cynic out of anyone  with his style of story-telling. I love the loving attention he pays to inconsequential (but then again maybe not so) details -- the pictures of Egypt, the double-end evening tie, the scent of her wrap, her father's euonymus that shines as they walk...  I like too that he makes a precious habit of investing inanimates with human qualities thereby giving us such wonders as a questioning sun, an importunate band, an intimate roof... Great poetry doesn't always make for happy reading. Sometimes it does. And sometimes, like with Betjeman's poem, it can be, quite simply, a joy. Pavi.  Though on the other hand, "A Subaltern's Love-Song" Feel her foreplay - more than kisses! Now I'll have to call her Mrs. -- Bill Greenwell ...Well, almost anyone then ;-)  euonymus: a shrub or small tree noted for its autumn colours and bright fruit - and not an obscure reference to a balding head as I fondly believed :)